This is part of a series exploring alternatives to the five-paragraph essay. You may also wish to read the series introduction or about collaborative essays, scripted dialogues, and reading narratives.
I first encountered the concept of the multigenre paper a year ago, and chose to use it as the course culminating activity with my Grade 12 College-level students. Throughout the year we had been asking what we called “life’s big questions” designed to get us all thinking about our values and ideals. The final project was an opportunity for students to pull their learning together and communicate what they believed.
Very simply, a multigenre paper comprises a variety of genres communicating ideas related to a focus theme or guiding question. Often students are asked to use a minimum number of genres in their final project.
If you’re curious, the Reflective Teacher has a great example of a multigenre assignment sheet. I’ve also found this fairly advanced outline helpful, although needing heavy modification for high school.
The multigenre approach worked very well. Students used a range of genres to explore and explain their core beliefs, and their submissions were thoughtful and creative.
I’ll admit that it was difficult for me to set aside so completely the five-paragraph essay with its comfortable limitations. Multigenre papers cannot be taught en masse with fill-in-the-blank handouts, and they aren’t easily marked. I’m glad I persisted, though, as the results were so satisfactory. Students actually enjoyed this assignment and really worked with the genres to express their beliefs.
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